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2021 Colorado Rockies: Why Scott Oberg’s Absence Is a Huge Blow

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Following the 2021 Colorado Rockies is rough. After a brutal offseason that included months of quietness, the Arenado trade, and overall ridicule from the entire baseball community, the hits keep piling on. After Kyle Freeland’s injury earlier this week had already put another dent in the fanbase’s mood, the team and the fans got yet another dose of bitter medicine:

Blood clots have been a problem for Oberg since 2016, requiring multiple procedures to keep pitching and costing him his entire 2020 season. The 31-year-old righty last appeared in an MLB game on August 16th, 2019 and his absence in 2020 played a big factor in the major troubles Colorado’s relief corps had last season. The Rockies were counting on Oberg to bounce back and be the excellent reliever he’d been for years, but it wasn’t meant to be. And there are many layers to this.

2021 Colorado Rockies: The on-Field Ramifications

First, let’s get to the practical stuff. The Rockies were expecting Oberg to be able to return to being a dominant force in the back of a bullpen, which is what he’d been for them in the last couple of years. Here are his numbers from 2018-19:

  • 114.2 IP
  • 2.35 ERA
  • 1.03 WHIP
  • 115 K / 35 BB

Now, I don’t think you need me to tell you that those are terrific numbers for any reliever, let alone one who pitches half his games at Coors Field. The 2021 Colorado Rockies have a couple of talented arms in the bullpen, but they’re going to struggle to make up for Oberg’s steady presence. Here’s how I would profile their ‘pen after the Oberg news:

CloserDaniel Bard
High LeverageYency Almonte
High LeverageMychal Givens
Middle ReliefRobert Stephenson
Middle ReliefJairo Díaz
Middle ReliefCarlos Estévez
Middle ReliefTyler Kinley
Long ReliefDereck Rodríguez
LeftyBen Bowden

Notice how I only have two “high leverage” options aside from the closer? Yeah, that’s because I wouldn’t trust any of the others in a tight ballgame. Oberg being healthy would’ve made that three guys plus Bard, which would’ve been a big boost for Bud Black. Instead, he’ll have to mix and match once again.

With Oberg’s injury, it’s now almost a sure thing that Ben Bowden will make the roster as far as I’m concerned, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jordan Sheffield or Lucas Gilbreath get a look as well.

The Moral Impact

This is where you almost feel like getting sentimental, because Oberg getting hurt is yet another slap in the face for fans of this franchise and they’ve had to endure a lot in recent times, even more than usual.

After the Arenado trade, even the most depressed Rockies fans could take solace in a few things. One of them was the starting rotation, which just now suffered a major blow with Kyle Freeland‘s shoulder strain. The other was the likability of the back end of the bullpen, with Daniel Bard’s 2020 comeback and Scott Oberg‘s eventual return to the 2021 Colorado Rockies seeming both likely and near actually happening. And now, one of the fan favorites is down. Again. And because blood clots are such a serious thing, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see Oberg pitch again. Just brutal.

The Rockies haven’t had much success in franchise history. In fact, they only won one single postseason game in the 2010s, that classic 13-inning marathon against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. In that game, Scott Oberg faced four batters. He struck them all out to earn the win, putting the exclamation point on what’s probably the most memorable moment in recent franchise history.

And now that guy is unlikely to step foot on a mound for the 2021 Colorado Rockies, and he may never do it again period. That is yet another body blow for a Rockies fanbase that’s had to endure way too many as of late. Eventually, you will break, and that’s what’s happening right now.

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Mario Delgado is a sound engineer and amateur (wishing to turn pro) baseball writer. I write for Overtime Heroics, MaxSportingStudio and on my own page.